How to cope with change

We all have to cope with change. As Benjamin Disraeli said:

“Change is inevitable. Change is constant”

Change can be positive e.g. seeing your business grow, it can be painful e.g. losing someone you love. Change can feel like it’s within your control e.g. applying for a new role or outside your control e.g. being made redundant.

How we cope with change

Of course, change brings a whole heap of emotions, whether you feel positive about the change or not. From my experience, the thing that people find most difficult about change is the uncertainty. There are two main methods we employ when it comes to coping with change.

The first is avoidance. This might be a conscious or unconscious choice, perhaps ignoring a call from someone who was promoted over you or watching tv when you’re supposed to be writing a blog (ahem!). Some people take solace in alcohol or other substances.

The second is to embrace the change, to go with the flow. This is a more positive and proactive approach. It involves methods to manage your feelings, to get support and to work with what you can control.

We employ both methods, in varying amounts depending on our outlook/situation etc, going through a number of emotions and stages until we reach the point we are through the transition.

The stages of change

I am a huge fan of the work that John Fisher has done on the stages of transitions. He built upon Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s model and came up with the following stages of change:

  1. Anxiety (Can I cope?)
  2. Happiness (Finally! Something’s changing)
  3. Fear (What’s going to happen?)
  4. Threat (This is bigger than I thought)
  5. Guilt (Did I really do that?)
  6. Depression (Who am I?)
  7. Gradual acceptance (I can see myself in the future)
  8. Moving forward (This is going to be awesome)

From my own experience and observing the experiences of others I would say this theory rings true for many of us. We might move through the stages quickly or slowly. We do not move linearly in most cases and it’s very rarely a clear-cut move between the stages. We may get stuck or sucked back but we do move through it eventually.

How to embrace change

You are more likely to move positively through the change if you acknowledge the emotions you are feeling; explore the facts and challenge the beliefs you have about the situation and draw on your support network. The other really important thing you can do is to give yourself time. Work through the change at your pace, not anyone else’s – and it’s different for everyone. Here are three tips to help you cope with change by embracing it:

Focus on what you can control

We can’t control everything. Recognising where the control lies and see what you can do to take charge, even if it’s something really small can help. If you have a tendency to blame yourself for things going ‘wrong’ then accepting when something is out of your control makes it much easier to let that blame go. It’s possible to be comfortable with something if you know it’s not something you can do anything about.

Where we hold control is often in our actions. Think about the weather – you can’t control that BUT you can control what you wear. It’s not a fool-proof method though and sometimes we need to reframe the situation! If you get caught in a sudden summer downpour and get soaked…well, that’s out of your control and it’s not your fault but you’re still wet…so if we reframe the situation it might become something you can laugh about or enjoy!

Take small steps

As you get your head around the changes and move through the different stages, think about the smallest step you can take to move forward. Do one small thing, then another, then another. This would be a step that is in your control; it can be done by yourself or with support. Some people like to start with an endpoint and work backwards until they have their first step, others like to just get started. You choose for you. If you need help then ask your tribe or please get in touch. There are always people who are willing to help you if you ask.

Recognise your resilience

Change brings resilience. That ability to learn and develop yourself. You have been through changes before. What did you do then? How did you cope? What did you learn? This isn’t about being brave, change is often scary but we do it anyway and through it, we grow stronger and more able to cope with change in the future. When we realise we have the strength to move through the change we get those wonderful feelings of calm, peace and courage. Focus on those as they come and know that you can do this.

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